Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ultra Training - Week #6

An easy week this week, longest run was 10 miles and total mileage only projected at 28 although i did just over 32. 

An odd week for me; with it being easy I really relaxed and was looking like falling off the wagon a little at the start. I missed Monday and Wednesday through work commitments but pulled it back at the end. I did discover this week how much running with music makes you faster, hardly news but it made a real difference for me. I have been running at around 7:40'ish pace for much of my mileage. 

Putting on my running playlist on Spotify and I was cruising at easily sub 7. I wouldn't do it all the time as one reason I am still in this is because I have been taking it easy but it is nice to stretch your legs a bit. After all training long and slow just creates a long and slow athlete. 

I have also been continuing to focus on form, as I listen to more and more podcasts and watch an increasing number of Salomon YouTube videos (I really need more of a life) the importance of form is so vitally important. Funny really as you'd think that running was just, well, running. It is; but there's still a technique to it. Looking at the soles of my Brooks Ghost (that I have done around 450 miles in) there is pretty much zero wear in the heel yet the front is pretty much flat. Really good evidence that I am running with good technique. Also that I am not succumbing to niggles or aches and pains is also evidence. As I increase the mileage maintaining the form will be difficult but the habits appear good so far.

Next week is a long week with the longest run at 22 miles, I need to balance this with the work Christmas party. That will mean losing that day and, being realistic the following one (maybe two!!). My plan is to run short on Monday (maybe 5 miles across two runs) then Tuesday to get up early and do the long run before heading to work. All being equal I will be on the road for 6:30 at the latest. Wednesday there is then a 10km race at work that I will do. After that everything will be a bonus. 

After 6 weeks I've run 232 miles. There's 14 weeks and around 634 training miles to go.....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ultra Training Week #5

I've not had a great week this week. I was incredibly tired through the middle of the week and Thursday's rest day could not come soon enough. Genuinely the first time I've felt that I have needed it. This is down largely to a consistent increase in my mileage. The previous 4 weeks i have covered 150 which is an increase for me of around 40 miles over a similar period. I've not felt damaged just tired. I think that this has been evident in my heart rate and pace. My heart rate has been quite low this week at around 136-138 bpm or around 75% of my theoretical max (220-age *75%) although having said that my actual max is higher meaning my % rate this week has been lower.

In numbers;
  • My theoretical max is 178 (220-42). 
  • In reality this is at least 190. 
  • This makes 75% effort either 142.5 or 138bpm. 
  • If you consider that my max HR is 190 and i've been running at 135 bpm then that's closer 70%. 
All of which just backs up that i have had very little zip this week (and that i am particularly boring!!). 

What i have learned though is that when you feel like this while important to train not to feel under pressure to train to hard. I started out with the training programme as a framework and so long as i am close i am happy with that. Yesterday was meant to be 20 miles followed by 10 miles today. I ran just shy of 14.5 miles yesterday and no miles today. This leaves me short by 10 miles this week. I'm unlikely to run tomorrow and will not be running on Monday either. As next week is an easy week, the longest run is 10 miles, i should be feeling fresh and ready to push hard again the following week. Although with Christmas parties and a complete lack of personal discipline this does put high mileage in jeopardy - i have experienced this before when a couple of years back i was training for an ultra. 

I'm still enjoying the training and the discovery of Strava clubs really helps with motivation and keeping it interesting. Nothing like a social media angle to make something more interesting! 

Looking ahead next week's schedule is:
Mon - Rest
Tues - 4 miles
Weds - 4 miles
Thurs - 4 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - 10 miles
Sun - 6 miles 

This will be a total of 28, refreshing, miles for week 6. 

Keep on running....

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ultra Training Week #4

An unexpectedly good week really. The schedule was:

Rest, 4 miles, 6 miles, 4 miles, rest, 20 miles, 8 miles, rest. Giving a total of 42 planned miles for the week, I managed 45.8 miles.

At the start of the week I thought that the 20 miler was I jeopardy as I had a Christmas meal and night out planned for the Wednesday I that London. That turned into a pretty big night out with Guinness, red wine, j├Ąger-bombs, lager and tequila all making an appearance and with a 4am finish to boot. Lucky then that the next day was a rest day;) I actually recovered from the night pretty well - relief!

Friday has been long run day so far and normally I have split the run over two sessions but try to do more of it in the morning. For a planned 20 miles I'd aim for a 15 / 5 split.

That didn't happen this week with my long run being an 8.6/9.7 split.
Miles, though, are miles.

The week finished with an 8 mile run on Saturday evening. This run started pretty steady with a mile with Frankie (my dog) the remaining 7 I ran solo picking up the pace a bit.

I then made a stupid mistake which I felt this morning. Recovery was lager and a curry. Only a couple but enough that today I have felt sluggish and lethargic. I woke in the night a couple of times needing
water too which never happens. Pretty stupid.

I am 4 weeks into a 20 week programme and 10miles head of schedule. I'm feeling pretty good, still motivated and as importantly, still intact. I am running steady and comfortably. The cooler conditions are helping that - I am dreading the rain. The only minor issue I have had is with dry skin on my feet. They have both cracked on the outside edge of the sole of my foot and heel. About 10 days ago it was really painful. Some heel cream liberally applied has fixed the problem and is now a part of my regime. Got to look after your feet.

This coming week will be about good food, hydration and steady miles.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ultra Training Week #3 (a creditable draw from the jaws of defeat)

This week has not really been an ultra week.

It turns out that my capacity for alcohol intake is still pretty good, however the recovery on the back end is rubbish. Saturday night was a blast, a really great night out with really excellent mates. I woke on Sunday and felt pretty good, as the morning progressed i felt worse and worse. By Sunday evening i had a bit of a cold and was feeling pretty rubbish. I would feel like this through until Wednesday evening. Basically a 4 day hangover.

The running plan this week was to be 34 miles for the week broken down as...
Rest - 4 miles - 4 miles - 4 miles - Rest - 18 miles - 4 miles. 

Losing the beginning of the week meant that i was chasing my tail. I decided not to go for the long run but to concentrate on building a solid mileage and ensuring that i am in shape for next week. This week has been about no alcohol, eating well and plenty of hydration. I managed 31.3 miles which is only a couple short of target. I finished the week with a nice 10 miler at 7:08 pace. I felt great and it was nice to run without a pack. I really focussed on trying to keep my cadence high (aiming for the magical 180 bpm). There's plenty that's been written on this and is available on YouTube, to corroborate it feels lighter on the feet and you get a good kick-back (is that what it's called?) where you can feel your heel noticeably rising higher towards your backside as you run. It feels fast but also much less stressful on the body. It also makes it virtually impossible to heel strike. Concentrating on the form like this and dispensing with headphones makes running even more of a meditational activity than i normally experience. 

Next week the mileage ramps up a bit with a weekly planned mileage of 42 miles. With a couple of days away with work this will be difficult but i am planning on a 20 mile day at some point.

I use the training schedule as a framework rather than something to be followed to the letter precisely for weeks like this. i love my running but you've got to live too. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ultra Training - Week #2

I'm currently on a train bound for Bristol. Not for a race or event,
not to crew or spectate but for a lads weekend! It should be great,
we've known each other for the best part of 30 years and when we get
together it's like we are 13 again. Great lads and proper mates.

This has impacted my training in that I am a run down. I should have 6
miles this morning but with a combination of rugby (I watched my son
and definitely did not play myself) and now having to get a train it
just wasn't feasible. There's no problem as this is week 2 in the
training and while it would have been to get out in the cold this
morning it's not the end of the world.

This was was to be another hard week with the schedule being:
Rest - 4miles - 6 miles - 4 miles - rest - 18 miles - 6 miles

As with last week on the shorter runs I have run the distance as a
whole in the morning taking a shorter run home in the evening. My long
run I did split over 2 sessions in the same day running 15 in the
morning and 3.8 home. This puts me up on my mileage for the week (40.1
miles) and is a nice way of keeping ticking over, particularly as I am
taking more rest days than ever before.

Rest days are a new experience for me really. So while I have heard
about the and read about them I've never really used them properly. I
would normally take a Saturday as a rest day so I could focus on some
other things. Now it's different, I rest on days before my long run
and after my back-to-back session. I feel very fresh when I set out
and do not struggle, my recovery from these runs is also excellent and
backing up runs has not been an issue as yet. This is a good start but
it is only that.

Next week is an easy week with a schedule as follows
Rest - 4miles - 4 miles - 4 miles - rest - 18 miles - 4 miles

Despite being easy there's still the long run in there, I'm going to
look to get closer to that in one run this coming week.

I'm loving the structure of the training and that I rarely feel
fatigued or unable to run. I did use amino acids (SciMX Amino Fusion)
on this weeks long run and will continue that as I go forward. The
scientific evidence to support it may be sketchy but I think it works
and it certainly doesn't have a detrimental effect so I will continue.

The same applies to calf guards. I wear them religiously on every run
(I wear Compressport and Skins a400's) it's gotten to the point where
I think I would feel naked without them. The benefits may be unproven
but, as with the amino acids, I think they work and as they are not
detrimental will continue with them. I remember when I first got them
and used to get a lot of stick for looking like a 6th form hockey
player but over time I see more and more people wearing them.

I'm just pulling into Bristol now and have finished my tea (likely to
be my last alcoholic drink for at least the next 12 hours).

Week 3 beckons like a Lycra clad temptress. Bring it on!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ultra Training - Week #1

I started my training programme for the Born to Run ultra this week and have to say it's been an excellent first week. 

There's still a long way to go but this week I have been able to increase my mileage (I ran 43.3 miles), have an extra rest day (that was 2 this week), and not have any aches, pains or niggles. 

Coming into this week I was a little nervous as I have recently had a couple of twinges, first my left hamstring and then my right quad/hip. Rest, stretching and foam rolling resolved both and put me in good enough shape to start the programme, but still I was nervous about starting. Nervous as I was desperate not to break down. 

The programme was, starting on Monday; rest, 4 miles, 6 miles, 4 miles, rest, 16 miles and then 6 miles.

As I run commute I made the effort to run the distance in totality in the morning, choosing the 2.4 mile run home as a recovery session. That was fine for the first three runs. The 16 mile was a little different. I ran 13 miles in the morning and then just short of 4 on the way home. Putting me at over the distance for the day but not in a single run. I'm not sure how significant this is at this stage and I did surprise myself on my run home averaging 7:15 miles having run a 1:41 half marathon that morning. One factor here might be that I took some amino acids.

I have blogged before about trying using SciMX Amino Fusion on long runs. You take 5 pills 45 minutes before and then another 5 immediately afterwards. They assist recovery. I've not used them in a while but really think that they worked here. I certainly had no fatigue in the legs on the run home at all. 

Week #2 looks very similar to week 1 with the difference being that the long run is 18 miles. I have a route in mind that's around 15 or so miles so will probably run that in the morning and then do the just short of 4 miles home. The other change in week 2 is that I will miss the last scheduled run as I am out with some old school mates in Bristol for a big night out.

I love my running but life has to go on.....

Friday, October 11, 2013

A change is as good as a rest...

Last Sunday, after the Devils Aquathlon, I had a pull in the hamstring
tendon of my right knee. Nothing major, I had actually been feeling it
for most of the previous week. It would be very sore to touch and a
bit stiff at the start of a run, then it would settle down and not be
any trouble. But with it being a problem I knew I needed to address it
as these things don't sort themselves on their own.

So this week I have not run. Not once. I've been cycling to/from work
and it has been great for my legs. My Achilles and calves have been
incredibly tight most days and my knee a little stiff too. While
running twice a day has been great it has obviously taken a toll on my

As this week has moved on the tenderness in my hamstring tendon has
gone, my calves and Achilles are not sore or stiff and I still feel
pretty strong.

I'm not about to become a cyclist but I will take more rest breaks
during the week and cross train more by using the bike. This break has
been great but I can't wait to get back on the road.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Devils Aquathlon - 6th October 2013

This morning was the Devils Aquathlon, an event at the Sandford Park Lido comprising a 2km swim the 50m pool and then a 10km run up Leckhampton Hill to the Devils Chimney. 

I was nervous before this race. More nervous than any other race I can remember and this was essentially as I was not prepared for the swim. I've swum twice this year, once in the Cheltenham triathlon (500m) and once today in a 2km swim. 

For today I wore a wetsuit, the heating in the pool was turned off last week and so it has been slowly cooling. It actually wasn't that cold and the temperature was quotes as 17c. I was third off in my lane with a 9am start time. As the start time approached I was getting more nervy, fiddling with my goggles and swim cap. Removing and putting on my nose clip. I wish the race had started 5 minutes earlier. 

When I was off everything felt good. The water rushed into my wetsuit and was refreshing, not cold. I settled into a rhythm where I was breathing every 2 and 4 strokes. I only breathe on my left. The two people in my lane pulled ahead and over the swim both would pass me. I really did not care. I had imagined a 40min swim time. I checked my watch at 32 lengths (the mile) and it was 27mins and change. Not fast comparatively but very good for me. I felt confident and  pushed a bit in the final 8 lengths. 

Getting out of the pool at the deep end was interesting. My arms were dead and my knees are not bendy so I just flopped onto the side and dragged myself up. 

Into transition, I couldn't undo my wetsuit, luckily there was a volunteer on hand to give me a hand. Out of the suit, into my socks and trainers, race belt on and off out the front. I opted for my Salomon Mission XR shoes for this as this is a real road to trail type of course. I could see a couple of runners ahead of me and set about trying to catch them. 

Through Cox's meadow I passed a lady that was ahead of me. Then on the way up Sandy Lane I passed another runner. There would be one more that I would get in front of very near to the top. The climb was tough, I ran as much as I could but ended up walking near the top. My Achilles and calves screaming under pressure. Once the trail flattened out I was running again and felt really good. The view across Cheltenham was stunning. The town was laid out with then a thin layer of cloud above which you could see the Malverns and Black Mountains. Down to the Devils Chimney and then back the way we came. 

The descent was even harder. With my knees as they are I am always tentative on downhill. There were lots of runners coming up too which made it tricky. 

As I made my way down there was a noise of footsteps behind me. Gaining quickly a man shouted that he was passing on my left. He flew past me, freewheeling. I tried to keep pace but he was flying. I thought I'd try to catch him once we were back on Tarmac but very quickly realised that was futile too.

Back through Coxs Meadow and the lido. As I entered I took a wrong turn heading back into transition rather than towards the finish line. A quick deviation and I crossed the line. Watch time was 1:30:44.

At the start I had figured that 1:30 would be a good time. It was but with different splits to what I had imagined. I thought I'd be 40/45-48 with a couple mins in transition. As it was the swim was better and the run worse.

Like all the lido events this was organised brilliantly and while the events are competitive they never feel exclusive. 

Will I do it again? Maybe, it will all depend on how the next 12 months go and how much swimming I can do. I would not do it again without committing to that as the main focus of my nerves was that I had let myself down by not preparing properly.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eat & Run - vegetarian chilli

Tonight, inspired by reading Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, I made
Minnesota Chilli. It was frankly lush and there's a large helping sat
in the freezer for a future cold day.

The recipe and method are in the book and online here:

Ingredients - Serves 8-10
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped onion
8–10 medium mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1 jalapeño pepper or other hot pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato purée
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 15-ounce can red beans, drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat
Hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
Tofutti sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Add the oil to a large pot. Sauté the vegetables and spices in the oil
over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Add a
few tablespoons of water if the veggies begin sticking to the pot.

Add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and simmer over
medium-low heat, covered, for 30 minutes. Stir and simmer for an
additional 20 to 30 minutes until the veggies are cooked through.

Season with salt and, if more spice is desired, hot sauce or cayenne
pepper to taste. Serve sprinked with the coriander.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What I like about ultra runners....

They have beards (well the men mostly do) and they like to drink beer too.

What's not to like?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cheltenham Triathlon 2013

Sunday was the Cheltenham triathlon at the Sandford Park Lido. A
really great local event that gets better every year. It's a super
sprint event raced over 500m in the 50m pool, a 15km cycle around the
town and then a 2.7km run. Due to the nature of the event there's all
sorts of folks that take part, to illustrate this on the bike leg I
was over taken by a chap on a full carbon TT bike wearing a Spiuk aero
helmet and myself overtook a couple of people on MTB's with baskets on
the front. That's part of the appeal though, that its interesting
enough for some really good competitors and also not too scary that
newbies are turned off.

This year, as last, I was in an LRFC Tri-Team comprising
representatives from the U13's Cheetahs and the U14's Cougars. Our
start time was 7:30 and at that time of day the pool was warmer than
being outside.

Racking our bikes in transition there was all the normal banter you
get about each others kit, what we are and aren't capable of and some
other rubbish. It's nerves and adrenaline basically. It was then a
cold walk into the pool and the briefing. One of our team was in a
wetsuit which he was asked to remove, this then showed he had a single
calf guard that he was also asked to remove. Something to do with
buoyancy. He adhered to the rules.

We set off in lane 1 at 10 second intervals. I have not swum properly
since the last tri at the lido in September 2012. Or, put basically, a
year ago. That showed. I was second in the lane, the chap in front of
me pulled away and Britta, starting behind me caught and overtook me
easily. I felt pretty rubbish during the swim as I had no power and
knew I wasn't doing myself justice.

Out of the pool in 3rd spot on our team with Britta and Roger in
transition. I was quickly into my shoes, helmet and race belt on and
heading out. Quicker than them in T1 I exited first. There were a
couple of changes to the bike leg this year. Firstly, on the route,
there are some sets of traffic lights. If you jump the red light it
means a DQ. but then it's not fair if you lose time and others who get
there on green don't. So this year if you were held up you were
credited a minute at each set. I hit two sets and so was credited 2
minutes. This was adequate for the loss of momentum and time waiting
at the lights.

At the first set Roger and Britta pulled alongside and we exchanged
some words of encouragement. The lights changed and I went off,
quicker than them both. I did feel a bit stupid for a moment or two as
started to think should I cycle with them but then actually it's a
race and we all want to do the best we can. So with the thought gone I
put my foot down. I was overtaken twice on the bike, the chap in the
Spiuk aero helmet and another guy on a standard road bike. I tried to
keep pace but just couldn't.

The route change meant a cycle down through Southam rather than past
the mushroom farm into Bishops Cleeve and that downhill was excellent.
It's more a slope but was great for getting some speed up.
Unfortunately at the end are the Smiths Industries lights that were
red. So a loss of momentum and a stop. There was a chap just in front
of me cursing the stop too. I made sure to shout out my race number to
the Marshall so I was credited the time.

When the lights changed I went off fast, I wanted to get in front of
the other chap and get a march up the race course hill. In front there
were a number of competitors struggling to get over the top on large
heavy MTB's. I dropped the guy I was at the lights with and did some
nice over taking. Knowing the course meant I pushed as hard as I could
as once over the top it's a long downhill and flat back to the lido.

Before the end of the bike leg I did have one stupid moment. Crossing
the lights at London Road into the section between the two halves of
Sandford Park there was a guy in front of me down on his Tri-bars. I
was on the hoods and caught him easily. As I went past him up towards
the hospital I saw an arrow pointing left and made a sharp stop and
manoeuvre only to then realise I'd taken the run route! Arghhh! A
curse at myself and quick turn around and I was racing back up past
the hospital, determined to catch the guy I had just passed. I passed
him again as we approached Coxs Meadow when, the pedestrian crossing
was activated and there was a red light. I dutifully stopped only to
see him fly down the inside of the cars and jump the light.

I was really furious at this and so again put my foot down. I was
close as we went into T2 and resolved to do him on the run. A quick
change of shoes and out.

The run is interesting as its short and sharp with, at the start, a
little kick up a gentle slope. With jelly legs its difficult to get a
rhythm and run with any power or balance. The chap that jumped the
lights was in front of me and I passed him easily at the first
crossing. Behind me was a guy who was breathing like he had one lung
and that wasn't working well. Wheezing would be an understatement.

I wanted to do a good run leg so set about trying to drop him. I had
(and still have) no idea what he looked like or how old or anything. I
never saw him, I just heard him breathing. I couldn't drop him. I put
some spurts in and he was there, right behind me heavy breathing. As
we neared the end of the run I was over taken by a guy that came from
a way back. As he passed me I kicked to try and get the ground back
but he ran across me. The reality was I wouldn't have been able to but
his tactic was a little underhand too.

I crossed the line in 46:19 - awesome!

A medal and T-shirt and, more importantly, a breakfast voucher were
great fully received. I then waited for the team to come in. One by
one they all finished, buzzing from good performances and improvements
on previous years (even allowing for the shortened bike course).

What was interesting when looking at the results is that I think my
time compared to last year is slightly faster, I was faster on avg. on
the bike and also the run. So my previous PB of 51:20 would have been
beaten if the courses were the same. Yet my overall position dropped.
In 2012 I was 23rd, this year only good enough for 31st. It may be fun
but its also competitive.

My split times were...
Swim 09:24
Bike 27:43
T2 01:08
Run 10:04

Whilst queuing for my breakfast sandwich a fellow competitor in the
queue spotted me and asked me if I had been in the pool that Monday
evening. The answer was simple, "no". If he had seen me swim he would
have known I had not been.

He then said, "that's funny because someone that looks just like you
was and kicked my breaking my nose." I was feeling good humoured so I
replied that it definitely wasn't me and that if it had been I would
have apologised anyway. A which point he sneered and turned his back
on me. A lady who was with him then said, "you do realise that anyone
that looks like that will now be leaving". I was getting back into my
head now and pulled her up and said "I'm sorry, 'looks like that'" she
then looked embarrassed and said "sorry looks like him"

They left but I then started to think that that guy thinks I broke his
nose when I really didn't and he didn't believe me. So rather than
just ask decently or accept my answer he was rude because he thought I
was living.

Looking back I wish I had;)

That's right, I'm not overweight..... Diabetes type 1

"...that's right I'm not overweight..."

"...yes I can, reasonably, eat what I want..."

Two statements I find myself saying with increasing frequency.

I have diabetes. If you know anything about diabetes you'll realise
that I am type 1. The type that means your pancreas just doesn't work.
Not type 2 which afflicts the obese, where the pancreas cannot keep
pace, or elderly where it is just exhausted.

The media (both mainstream and underground) refer to a diabetes
epidemic in sensationalist headlines. What they actually mean is an
epidemic in type 2 but that doesn't scan so well as a headline and may
confuse readers. I wonder how many people with no exposure to diabetes
understand, or frankly, care about the difference.

As a type 1 diabetic I do care. I think it's important to get right so
that the public understands that there's a difference in the root
cause of the condition. That my diabetes is not self inflicted or
because of misuse but because of a failure. That's quite different to
type 2. Yet type 2 grabs all the headlines as its linked almost
exclusively to the obesity explosion as a result of how we live our
lives, particularly in the west.

I have seen some articles and campaigns for a name change for the two
conditions and could not agree more that this needs to happen. The
confusion over the two conditions is such that I find myself on
occasion having to justify myself and explain how it works to people.
The normal response is an enlightened look and an "...ahhhhhh..."

So please if you are reporting for the mainstream media, writing a
blog or podcasting, or indeed anything that communicates with people,
specify the type of diabetes you are referring to.

To help these are definitions from the Wikipedia.....

> Type 1 diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin, and currently requires the person to inject insulin or wear an insulin pump. This form was previously referred to as "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (IDDM) or "juvenile diabetes".
> Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. This form was previously referred to as non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or "adult-onset diabetes".

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rich Roll podcast...

I listen to a lot of podcasts and as I am pretty boring they tend to
be about football and running (I also like the infinite monkey cage
which is a science one so I'm not that boring).

The Rich Roll podcast is an interesting one for me as I listened to
the first couple and didn't really get what they were talking about. I
understood it but it didn't feel like it was something that could ever
apply to me or my world. I still get that sense of it in some ways but
it is changing and that is down to the people he interviews and the
passion with which these people communicate. What I initially
interpreted as being "preachy" really isn't. I, after all, choose to
listen or not.

Last week he had the fruitarian ultra runner, Michael Arnstein, and
then this week Joe Cross. What's remarkable about these episodes and
the podcast in general is that I find it impossible not to be
motivated in that moment by what I am listening to.

Today, for example, I was at the train station listening to Joe Cross
talk about juicing for 60days as part of a reboot. I am at the time
looking for some food to eat on the train ride home. Look around,
there's a burrito bar, a yo-sushi, a boots, sainsburys, Marks and
Spencer's, a couple places selling baguettes and bagels, a McDonald's,
a costa coffee, a couple of bars and a place that's a bit like pret
selling pastries, sandwiches etc.

The majority of what I can see and purchase easily is highly processed
food, carb and fat high and by virtue of being processed, down the
food chain. As an example of what this means from a nutrient
perspective is it better to eat an apple or eat an apple pie? An apple
is the answer, fresh and nutrient rich. Once processed it changes and
that nutritional value diminishes. We all should know and realise

Similarly we all know that a latte is too many calories and a
McDonald's could easily be all your calories for the day with very
little nutritional value save for the gherkin.

So faced with some of western cultures finest fast and convenient food
but with Rich Roll in my ears what do I buy?

A bottle of water, a fruit salad bowl, a few fresh apricot and a small
packet of dried cherries and almonds.

Now I generally do eat healthily but I do like what constitutes bad
food too. I am also weak about it, but you try buying it with a 100%
plant based athlete extolling the virtues of his diet and talking
about his achievements in your ear.

Pretty impossible!

Two runs a day...

This is not really news but it is news to me. Well not news exactly as
I have read a lot, listened a lot and seen many training plans where
two runs a day are referenced and used. I have been running twice a
day on most days for a couple of months now and wanted to capture and
share what i think are the benefits of it.

I am in a fortunate position where I can travel to work under my own
steam. At least 4 days a week i run to/from work. The
shortest/quickest way is around 2.5miles and it can be as long as I
want it to be. What tends to happen is that I run 4-5.5 miles each

The advantages are great for run training.

Running twice daily is a way to increase mileage without over
burdening your body. To run 8 miles is, or feels, like it is more
damaging than running 2x4miles with 7'ish hours rest in between. Makes
perfect sense and works. If I run those distances the times for
morning and afternoon are consistent. I'm not running particularly
fast as its not about that, plus I'm carrying a pack but I can cruise
at 7:20-30 mile pace with no problem.

It's also a way to get recovery. At the end of a week I sometimes run
6-7 miles in and then maybe 2.5 miles home. The run home is great for
recovery and, again, it's not a race. My legs feel a bit stiff at the
start but once moving start to free up and that gentle run home just
works to gets the legs moving and free up any residual stiffness or

With a sedentary job desk time is dead time as far as my body is
concerned. make that recovery time and it makes complete sense.

I'm going to continue to run this way for the foreseeable future as
the benefits to my running have been huge. I have gone from not
running for 18 months to avg. around 40 miles within 3 months of
resuming training. I rarely, currently, run over 6 miles in a single
run yet the mileage increases. You also, in my experience, get to a
point where walking feels weird and stiff and running feels natural.

Runners talk about flow, that feeling that everything is in the right
place, that the rhythm is perfect, you feel focused and running is
easy. I experience that so regularly now that it really does feel like
the most natural mode of movement I could do. It really does feel like
it is something I was made to do.

The next phase is to start to increase mileage a little and introduce
a long run on Sunday mornings. I've run 14.4miles as a max so far on
this comeback, that was last week. What was interesting was that I t
was mentally harder than physically. I take that as a good sign. I
will start to do a longer morning runs of around 10miles in the next
couple of weeks with the run home as a recovery effort. Then into
ember the ultra training starts as I get ready for the Born to Run
ultra in March.

What is absolutely certain is that I will be running twice a day as I
progress towards this goal.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Runner or jogger?

Runner or jogger?

I have seen a lot written about whether you are a runner or a jogger?
A simple question that you could be forgiven for thinking what's the
difference or more likely who cares? But people do. I'd say runners
care, for some reason not wanting to be called a jogger.

Jogging isn't running would be the rationale. Jogging is jogging and
running is running? But what's the difference? A lot of it seems to be
about pace and ability. Runners nailing sub-7minute miles and jogger's
going at a steady 8:30.

I think that's off the mark and the difference, if there is one, is
about attitude. I know a lot of runners and not many that jog. That's
not to say that the pace is different but the attitude is. The runners
I know talk about almost nothing else. In the same way that a
Yorkshireman will let you know he's from Yorkshire within 5 minutes so
a runner will bring the conversation to running in a similar, maybe
quicker, timeframe.

Runners know their PB's because they worked towards them and are, most
likely, focused on breaking them. Kit, races done and coming up,
training distances (talked about as volume) and injuries. Endless
stories of injuries, knees, calf-strains, hamstrings, lower back,
Achilles, etc etc ad nauseum.

A jogger may be someone that "...gets round..." - has no drive beyond
the goal in front of them and is happy to just get around the course,
whether it be 5km, 10km, marathon or ironman. The developments in
training, affordability of kit and increased knowledge of sport means
that someone with minimal training can complete a course. A runner
would not be happy with just completing unless an injury during the
race itself meant that was all that they could achieve.

This state of mind extends further, runners, in my experience, rarely
think of much else. Planning routes, planning the next run. How early
will I need to get up to run or how late will I need to stay up to
run. How far and at what tempo should I run. How much time do I have
and that its never enough.

I'm a runner and for me it's about more than just running. It keeps me
sane. I am like a stroppy toddler if I don't run for a few days, I'm
really not happy. It gives me thinking time, headroom, balance. I'm
not necessarily a good runner but in my mind I am a runner - I have
that state of mind.

I have nothing against jogger's, in many ways what they do is harder.
Punishing yourself with something that you are not necessarily
passionate about takes a different mindset. That comes with no
pressure too though, so who cares if a 10km takes more than hour? A
marathon completed in more than 5hrs is still a marathon completed,
and you could argue that it's harder to do it in 5+ rather than 3'ish.

The more I run the more I want to run. It's starting to feel like the
reason I am me is because I run.

Sent from my iPad

Park Run #27 - A new PB

Thanks to the lovely people at Park Run for updating the #27 results.
My 15th place is restored.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Time to Fly

I have started hearing more and more about a brand of shoes called Hoka One One. Listen to any ultramarathon podcast and there's talk of these shoes and that more and more people seem to be running in them. Particularly over ultra distances. What makes these shoes stand out is that they, seemingly, contradict all the current thinking for minimalist footwear as they have oversized cushioned soles. This is slightly deceptive though as despite a large outer sole they still only have a 4mm drop. It's like running in a platform shoe.

What really made me take note was listening the Rich Roll podcast about how he had crewed for Dean Karnazes at this years Badwater ultramarathon and that he, Dean, was wearing Hoka's. with Dean being the poster boy for ultra marathons this got my attention.

A quick look online reveals that they are expensive upwards of £125-150 a pair. Further research reveals that they have bearing for about a decade and are the creation of an ex-Salomon employee and an ultra runner. Good stock in my opinion.

Over the summer I was in Chamonix and in one of the many sports shops selling hiking and trail running gear saw a pair of Hoka's on the shelf. My first experience of seeing them in the flesh. They were massive but did not weigh anything like I was expecting when I picked them up. I stopped short of trying them on as new that would be fatal but my interest and appetite were whetted.

Returning home I continued sporadic research into the shoes and then tweeted "...someone tell me about @hokaoneone..." A response from a friend in London pointed me to a contact in Churchdown that has a pair, he offered to loan them to me so I could try before I buy. Amazing - how cool is twitter and the running community!

A quick drive to his house and I had a pair in my hands. Big foam filled and light.

That night I did try them on and actually wore them to walk the dog. The first thing I noticed was the rocker, you really can rock from front to back just stood. It feels pronounced as is so different from every other running shoe I have worn. They are also incredibly comfortable, incredibly soft on the outer sole but not clumsy. Although they are big and soft they do not feel like clown shoes.

I ran in them the following morning, 5.25 mile route that is pretty flat and mainly on asphalt although does include some field and trail type path too. 

The first 1/3 mile was difficult. I am a forefoot striker and struggled to get the feel of the shoes with that pattern. Once that settled the felt great. They were a bit heavier than a normal shoe but you quickly adapt to that. 

One stretch of the route is a length of road, Grovefield Road, that is slightly down hill, sweeps round to the right with then a slight incline. I absolutely flew around that bend, really motoring (as a Strava PB on that segment testifies) and my feet and legs felt great. It's not steep but I would say that I was really letting go with my running style whereas normally I run within myself particularly downhills. I rarely, if ever, extend my stride so that I am gliding or flying. I did I these shoes though and it was largely unconscious - it happened because it could. 

When I finished the route I looked at my garmin and the time was 37:45. That route normally takes me around 40minutes with a pack (as i had on that morning). 

So was it the new shoes?

It has to be to a certain extent. The first point is that they feel fast, they perform like a racing shoe. Despite the cushioning they're not spongy and don't roll. Responsive and fast. The rocket probably helps with foot turnover even as a forefoot striker, you can feel that although I should stress its not unnatural. The outer sole enables you to cruise over any terrain without losing that feel that you need to be sure footed.

There was one final test that I wanted to do before begrudgingly returning the to their owner. The Cheltenham Park Run. I did it a few weeks ago in my Brooks Pure Project shoes in 19:40, a decent time in minimalist shoe with minimal drop. 

So Saturday morning I rocked up to the 27th edition of the Cheltenham park run wearing the Hoka's but forgetting my barcode. That meant any time was not going to be attributed to me on the website. 

Setting off quicker that the last time the pace was high with some very fast runners in attendance. On a flat course with a mixture of grass, dry and wet Tarmac the shoes felt excellent on all but the wet Tarmac where they noticeably slipped a little. This was consistent and a little disconcerting but ultimately not a problem. 

I finished the course in 19:26 and 15th place. A PB by some 14 seconds. 

Was it the shoes? Not solely but the important thing is that they didn't slow me down. I went fast in them than in a minimal shoe that is known to be fast.

I am very impressed by these shoes and will be looking to get a pair when my road shoes I am in currently need replacing. As I look forwards starting my ultra training in November this year ahead of the Born to Run ultra in Wales this will put my feet in safe hands.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rate your run - Summer 2013 - The Alps

This summer we went to the Alps on holiday, we stayed in Abondance in the French alps near the border with Switzerland. When we planned the trip i did toy with taking my bike as this would be an opportunity to cycle the Alps however as my running was picking up i decided against it as thought it would be better, for me, to run. Part of this thinking was that bang-for-buck running gives more. You need to cycle a long time to get the same benefits/rewards from a fitness perspective and basically i am just more of a runner.

I managed four runs while we were in the Alps. The first i just ran on the road up the valley turned around and ran back. The hill was long and i could have continued for another 3-4 miles uphill easily before running out of hill. It was easier than i was expecting because while long the gradient was not too harsh. My mph/kph was slow but consisten and it felt good. The run ended up being 7.5miles at 8.20/mi pace.

The reward was the view across the valley as the sun came over the mountains. Dawn had broken but being in the valley the sun was not yet high enough to drench it in sunlight and warmth. I did pack my arm warmers at the last minute and was glad as i definitely needed them at the start of the run. It was stunning being on a quiet alpine road watching the sun creep across the valley floor.

My second run i decided to run to the top; the top of the road, top of the Alp and the France/Swiss border. This was a tough run; it took me just over an hour to run to the top. A long steady climb through La Chappelle and La Chatel. Past the many sports shops packed with Salomon goodies, past the bakeries and patisseries whose early morning aroma's wafted into the streets making it very difficult not to stop. Thankfully i was not carrying any Euro's otherwise i may have just stopped somewhere in a pastry haze.

As the top got closer there was a distinct absence of buildings and the switch backs started. This was excellent running, it was starting to feel difficult but the top was almost visible. Reaching the top, the view was, like so many we saw on this holiday, just breath-taking. The sun just peeking over the top of the mountains, rays of light cutting through the dewy morning in the valley. Bright blue skies overhead and so many pine trees standing to attention.

Turnaround at the top and then a run down. This was really difficult. My quads were feeling bad and i really struggled to get any sort of flow on the downhill. That much downhill on asphalt was not ideal.

I was marginally faster coming down but there was only about 5 minutes in it which for the effort involved in getting to the top was not what i was expecting. This got me thinking about the difference in running hills compared to flat. I listen to a lot of podcasts that talk about the elevation gain and loss on long runs in terms of thousands of feet. Back home the hills top out at just under 1,000ft which is nothing. I realised that on holiday. It also means that you need to factor that into your thinking. A mile on the flat in 6-7 minutes is great, make that mile cover 500-700ft and time is irrelevant. It's also evident that there is a definite skill to running downhill.

My third run was the most normal run. Pushed for time and wanting something a bit easier i ran the 2.5 miles down to the nearest village along a tow-path then turned around and ran back on the road. A flat course that was, actually, on completion a little disappointing, when i got back i felt like an opportunity had passed. I should have run up hill somewhere.

The final run was the best and actually proved beyond doubt the skill and technique involved in running hills and trails and how little time matters. I drove to La Chatel and then from behind the cable car station picked up a trail towards the top. My plan was to run to the top of the Alp on the trails and then come straight back down. We had done this the day before going up in the cable car and chair lift and then walking down.

The trails heading up were a mix of paths and single track. The early part was pretty technical crossing a dry river bed and the negotiating lots of tree roots on the single track. As i broke through onto the trail (which was a wide dirt path with gravel and stones) there was a chap just ahead of me. He slowed and we said hello and then ran together. He was a french man also on holiday and was only running part of the way up. We ran together having a pigeon conversation (his English was excellent whereas my French is merd). We parted and i continued. The first point of note being Super-Chatel where the cable car stops. From there it's a chair lift to the top or in my case some steep trails.

There were a number of trails in all directions including ont that took you into Switzerland and pointed out that you needed a passport to continue. Tempting as this was i wanted to get to the top. The path under the chair lift looked really steep but was the only way up. As i got closer i realised that it was initially steep but becoming a series of switch backs.

I arrived at the top. I was the only person there. The cable-car and chair lifts were not operating as yet and so there was no-one. Not even the employees who operate the lifts were around. Looking around the view (there it is again) was probably the best ever. Snow capped mountains in one direction, sun-drenched Alps in the other and, of course, the valley. I have had experiences like this before, notably when cycling in Majorca where i have felt that i could understand why people would believe in a god. When you are faced with something so serene and peaceful and you are there alone it really does feel quite spiritual.

What goes up must come down and so i started to make my descent, coming down the way i went up. I then spotted some different trails down and came down through a wooded section. I started to see runners and hikers making their way up. All carrying and using ski-poles which made me envious as i love kit and the Salomon pack that i was using for the first time (having bought it in La Chatel the day before) had holders for poles.

Arriving in La Chatel the plan was that i would stop at one of the bakeries and buy breakfast before heading back to the apartment. A selection of crossaints and pastries including a stunning vanilla custard tart were bought - probably the best breakfast on holiday!


There was time for one more run on holiday when we were in Paris on the return journey. Having been out for the day we went back to the hotel to have some down-time and relax before going out in the evening for dinner. I'm not very good at doing nothing so grabbed my kit and headed out for an hour. We were staying in Montparnasse, a business district to the (i think) south of the city. I looked at a map and decided to get onto the river bank, run to the Eiffel Tower and then back. What i forgot was that i have a lousy sense of direction and while the road names on the map made sense once i was out they may as well have been in Greek. Not to worry i though - if i keep going in one direction i will eventually end up somewhere scenic. Not So!

I ran for just over 30 minutes in one direction and never saw a thing. Lots of bars, shops and people but nothing recognisable. It was, frankly, like running through Birmingham. I would have thought it was impossible to run for an hour in Paris and not see anything yet that is exactly what i managed to do.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

56 miles run last week

56 miles run last week

This is an update on my recovery, improving fitness and running slow.

I have been running properly following knee surgery since May 10th
starting with runs of less than a mile and covering 4 miles in a week.
Typically these early runs were after a cycle commute home so I was
already warmed up. After a bit of a stutter in mid May where I stopped
running because my knee was hurting again I resumed towards the end of

With the knee feeling much much better I was able to move from 1 mile
runs to 1.5 and then push to 3 miles pretty quickly. That said the
pace was very slow. It felt good though and like I was getting
somewhere. Having not run for nearly 18months I wasn't about to blow
it by being impatient.

Slowly building the miles I got to a position where I could run to
work. That's around 2.5 miles and running to and from work I was able
to log 5 miles in a day with very little impact on my body. With
7-8hrs in between the natural recovery was taken care of. It is this
that has had the most impact on my running and on getting back to
something approaching proper running.

Running twice daily is a great way to get your mileage up without
damaging your form too much. It also gets you used to running on tired
legs. Typically now I run between 6-10 miles a day over two runs and
as they are part of my commute they are almost invisible miles.
Invisible in that they do not impact my family.

With a long run on Sunday of a couple hours and normally between
10-14 miles with 1,000ft of climbing I am covering 40-50 miles a week
easy. Last week I ran 56 miles, a record so far on this comeback, and
managed 8 consecutive days running that contained a mix of fast runs,
a 5km race and a long run of just shy of 14 miles. I'm no Mike Wardian
just yet but it feels good.

One of the main differences in my running this time though is that I
am not concerned about running fast or slow. I just run. I listen to a
lot of podcasts about running, yes I am really that boring, and a lot
of it is about covering the distance just getting into the moment and
running. What will be will be. With my ambitions firmly on longer
stuff this is perfect. Why worry about running 6'ish minute miles when
I want to run 50miles. I'm never going to do that so why bother. I
like to push it occasionally and the fast 5 miler I did last week and
also the Park Run were great to stretch the legs and get the heart
rate up bit I was as happy plodding up hill at 9min mile on Sunday as
I was blasting around pittville park.

This has made a massive contribution to my recovery and is actually
just a nice way to run. I still log every mile (I'm not that free of
the Garmin just yet) I just look at it a lot less when I am running
than I used to.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Park Run #22 - Cheltenham

This weekend I took part, along with some of the LRFC Cougars u13's, a
couple of their parents and around 198 others in the 22nd edition of
Cheltenham Park Run. A timed 5km event in a park every Saturday

I have been targeting doing this for some time as love the idea of it
and its a good distance to try and generate some speed in.

On the back of a good week of running I decided to go for it as much
as I could. I got caught out with the lads from the team near the back
so made the decision late to go for it. When I say late I mean around
300m in. Then it was a case of making up ground.

I did this with a burst to get past and clear a couple of runners then
a quick recovery and push again. The course is fast and flat so

At the start I was looking for 21mins. I thought this was achievable
on current form. To cross the line in 19:40 was dreamland. To be first
in my age group even better (I'm now a Veteran Male 40-44!!) and I
wasn't chicked (not that I really care about that).

The lads seemed to enjoy it and there was much talk of doing it again.

I will be going back very soon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Alpha male?

When you run with a colleague there's bound to be competition! Net
result is fastest run on my comeback trail.

I was pretty nervous at the start but actually the legs felt great and
it was nice to stretch them a bit and do some work at tempo.

Dodging tourists across the Embankment made for an entertaining route
in sun drenched London.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


This week was three months since my knee op. I marked it by returning to running properly. Chalking up 30 miles over the week and topping out with a long run of 8 miles.

I know i can recover.

So what do i put this down to? A number of facors not least of all my fair share of knee injuries. I know what it feels like and i have the experience of coming back.

Cycling and maintaining fitness
I am a runner who cycles a bit. Over the last year i have been an unfulfilled runner who cycled a bit more. Whilst not totally in love with the bike i enjoy it enough to use it when i cannot run. This has helped with overall fitness and, of course, leg strength.

Starting Small
My first few runs were lessthan half a mile oh and very slow. Just to get the feel of running again and get the joints moving in that way. Using my experience of recovery i know that i can bounce back quite quickly but always there is the need to start sloooooow.

Listen to your body
When i started back running it was about stopping before it hurt. Then, as confidcnec grew, it was feasible to push it a bit and see how the knee and rest of my body held up.

Vibram Five Fingers
Read 'Born to Run' or indeed any pro-barefooting material and the talk is that barefooting improves foot strength, leg strength and therefore reduces the potential for injury. Big, foam-filled shoes make us weak. 

I've not been running in mine yet this year, but have walked miles in them over all sorts of terrain. After a day in them i can feel it in my legs. My lower leg in particular feels stronger. I genuinely believe that my use of these shoes has aided my recovery and continues to do so.

Strong feet rock!

Calf Guards
I have used these for a number of years, using them well ahead of the current popularity, and now swear by them. As a forefoot striker my calves take a hammering and these really help.

Experiment with Amino Acids
I was listening to the Ultra Runner Podcast and they were talking about MAP (Master Amino Acid Pattern). They guy was really waxing lyrical about them. I did some research and found a product by Sci-MX called Amino Fusion. They sell at the local Nutrition Centre, i bought them last weekend and used them on Sunday (09/06).

Five pills 45 minutes pre-workout and then five post workout. The feedback on the podcast was that during the effort there was little feeling of feeling battered with the recovery afterwards being significantly quicker. The amino acids helping to repair damaged muscles.

 I've used them once, on an 8 miler. I didn't notice anything during the run however on getting up the next day i did feel i could do it again. No residual pain at all. To put this in context 8 miles is not far but it is when you have not run that far in more than a year. It's also far when you ae in your 3rd week back to running after a long lay-off. 

I'll continue to use them and monitor the impact. As my runs get longer they  may become essential kit.

Next Steps
Reduced mileage this week and a planned shorter long run. Then next week i'll go again. I've entered a tough aquathon, The Devil's Aquathon, at the lido for October (2km swim in cold water followed by a 10km run with around 300m of ascent) and am considering the Cheltenham half marathon in September.

In March next year there's the Born to Run ultra in south Wales. I am desperate to do this and do it well. Everything between now and then is with this in mind.

It's good to be getting back.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Incredible daughter

This is something that I have been meaning to blog about for some
time. It's an episode that took place on the August Bank Holiday in
2009 and is about my diabetes and how important family that know about
it, however young they may be, are.

We had been to Broadway for the day. An idyllic Cotswolds village.
It's a beautiful place, a nice quaint high street some interesting
shops and it now has a really great children's playground. Swings,
slides, a small climbing wall, climbing frames, a death slide - it
really is great. One of the toys in the park is a see-saw but unlike
the traditional see-saw its inverted. So the pivot is high. My two
kids were on it and then something happened. Luca got off it and as he
did so he ended up underneath the seat, which had pivoted high and
then crashed down on top of his head.

He went down and there was blood. A lot of blood. He had a split in
the top of his head and blood was pumping out of his head. Someone
helped us and gave us some tissues to put the wound. They quickly
became useless soaked with so much blood.

With the wound not sealing and blood continuing we made the decision
to call 999. A paramedic arrived from Worcester hospital and said we
need to get Luca to hospital. He would take him. Sue and Luca went the
paramedic Amélie and I followed in the car.

I have no idea how long all that took place over. It wasn't long. The
other point here is that Luca was very calm. Once he'd calmed down
from the initial whack on the head he was ok.

Amélie and I got to the car and headed across to Worcester hospital.
This is where it got interesting for me.

When we arrived at the hospital it appeared deserted. We walked in and
were in a long empty corridor. The mix of adrenaline and shock at
seeing your son in that condition was wearing off and my blood sugar
was dropping. I started to wobble and was struggling to keep a
straight line, read signs and all the normal symptoms associated with
a hypo, a low blood sugar.

I was bumping into Amélie and struggling. This is where she was
AMAZING. She could see me struggling and was worried that I would
fall, so she pushed me right up to the wall so that I was walking
right next to it. That made it impossible for me to fall that way.
Then she put herself on my other side so that she could feel if I were
going to fall she would feel it and push me the other way towards the
wall. We made our way like that until we reached the A&E department.

She then told Sue that I was in difficulty and needed something. I
was then taken care of in the hospital and things stabilised pretty

Amélie was 7 during this. She was brilliant, mature and aware of what
was happening. She didn't panic or get scared, or didn't show it, she
just looked after me.

It was a humbling experience and one I will never forget.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This morning highlighted what i have known for months, years but made it really clear.

Sunday mornings i normally do a couple of hours on my bike. I've been cycling as my knee has been knackered so i've not been able to run. This morning was the Cheltenham Sportive from the Sandford Parks Lido, an 88 mile sportive around the Cotswolds.

I knew a couple of people doing it and last weekend was feeling pretty keen to do it myself.

Then the weather changed, our summer was last weekend, since then it's been progressively windier and wetter. I pulled out of the sportive, not that i had actually entered.

I did then plan, instead, to do a couple of hours on the bike and follow that up with a short run. This has been my approach over the last week or so. Cycle home and then do a short run.

It's felt great to be running on roads again.

This morning i dispensed with the bike altogether and just went for a run. Nothing earth shattering. Just shy of 2.5 miles in a little over 20 minutes. It felt great, no issues with the knee with legs and lungs feeling great.

I actually felt like a runner again......

I still need to keep it slow and steady and not get too carried away. I know what i am capable of in recovery, when i had cruciate surgery i ran a 41min 10km x-country within 6 months. This last op was nothing like that so i expect to be able to steadily increase mileage and time over the coming weeks. 5km is the target next weekend - might even try it at Cheltenham Park Run if all goes well this week.

The point being that i am a runner and that is what i love and what i daydream about doing. I don't daydream about riding my bike, never have.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How do you make it a business?

Actually a better title might be 'can you make it a business?'

I've been thinking a lot lately about the sort of conversations I have
with people, friends, colleagues and people that I encounter that have
heard I like running. A lot of this is advice on entering races, what
it's like to race, preparation, training and everything in between.

Advice on zone 2 heart rate training, kit you need and don't. What
tempo runs are and how to run slow. How to get time to train and
maximise what time you have.

So the question is can I turn this into a business? Maybe not
something to retire on but something that's an interesting side line?
Is it as simple as setting up a website, a twitter account and trying?
Some shameless self promotion and an honest approach to folks. Free
initially and then maybe a charge?

Maybe - something to mull over.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Apple Tarte Tatin

As a Mother's Day pudding I made this today. Really good with a quality vanilla ice-cream.


  • 2kg/4½lbs dessert apples, about 12, peeled

  • 3 tbsp water

  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar

  • 60g/2½oz cold unsalted butter, diced

  • 30g/1oz unsalted butter, melted, to add richness

  • 300g/11oz all-butter puff pastry, rolled to a thickness of 3mm/⅛in, cut very slightly larger than the diameter of the tarte tin, pricked with a fork and frozen


    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

    2. Cut the apples in half horizontally, remove the cores and slice off the rounded tops and bottoms of the apples so they sit flat in the tin.

    3. Put the water in the bottom of the tin and sprinkle over the sugar. Let it sit for two minutes to allow the water to absorb the sugar.

    4. On a medium heat, cook the syrup until it turns to a pale blonde caramel (do not let it become too dark or the flavour will overpower the apples), then stir in the diced butter - this will stop the caramel cooking and give extra richness to the dish.

    5. Arrange the apples, middles uppermost, around the edge of the tin and then fill in the centre with the remaining apples. It is important to pack them as tightly as possible – press them down with your hands as you go.

    6. Brush the apples with the melted butter and place the tin on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

    7. Remove from the oven and place the disc of frozen pastry on the top. Tuck the edges of the pastry into the dish and prick a few holes with a sharp knife to let the steam out as the dish cooks.

    8. Return to the oven for a further 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.

    9. Allow to cool at room temperature for one hour before turning out of the tin and serving warm. Alternatively, make the tarte the day before and reheat as above.

Third knee operation - March 2013

This week i had my third knee operation, the first on my right knee. A simple operation in the scheme of things, an arthroscopy. I damaged the cartilage and it needed a trim. I've had it before on my left knee some years ago following a football injury.
I had to go in the night before so that they could monitor my diabetes, if it wasn't for the diabetes I'd have gone in the morning of the operation and been an outpatient. Hospitals are funny places, they don't turn the lights out until very late and then they wake you very early! Monday night they turned the lights out around 11pm, then Tuesday they woke me at 6am and then left me alone for half an hour! 

OperationNormally as a diabetic you are the first operation of the day. This is so that they can get you back to your usual regimen as soon as possible. I was actually the second op of the day as they wanted to do a hip procedure that was described as being "just an injection", first. I was in my gown and with my cannula all fitted ready by 8am. Wheeled down at around 9 i was in a waiting area with another chap and a nurse. the talk quickly moved to football, doesn't it always when two blokes get together, then after he had been taken in the nurse started telling me about her daughters art career. Quite funny as she was describing the work her daughter does and turning her nose up as she basically didn't understand it. On the face of it neither did i. I don't know much about art....
My time came and i was wheeled through to the anaesthetist. She whipped out the attachment to my cannula and squirted a syringe of, "something to make me drowsy" into my arm. They continued preparations and she asked me if i felt drunk. I felt fine. This prompted another syringe being pumped into my arm for which i managed to stay awake for about a second longer.... it was as quick as one of Dexter's targets!

When i woke i was in recovery, or what i later found out was recovery, i had an oxygen mask on my face and something in my throat. I gagged as i woke and a nurse came, removed the mask and pulled something from my throat. As i started to come too my mouth was incredibly dry. Dryer than ever. and i was cold. The nurse was chatting to me, explaining what was going on and how long i had been there. It was around 11am and i had been out for quite some time. They had been unable to rouse me (i am 'particularly sensitive to opiates'), unable to warm me up and unable to get my blood sugar up.

I did feel cold when i started to wake up properly and noticed i had a heater in the bottom of the bed, a small portable heater with one of the hoses like you get on a tumble dryer pushing heat into the bottom of the bed. To keep the heat in i had some kind of space blanket and to top this ensemble off a metallic shower cap. I had lost around 2.5C of body heat during the operation and my low body fat, that never gets tired, meant warming me up was difficult. The other thing that caused a bit of excitement, particularly in recovery, was my low pulse. While just waiting around in bed it dropped to 40-41 bpm which is lower than the machine can tolerate. It actually alarms at that level. Despite this being a positive i had to explain it a number of times. It's like hospitals don't see many fit people.

This led me to talking extensively to a nurse called Olly in recovery who had done a bit of triathlon and played football. We discussed training, racing and different events. The whole time i was talking i did think what Sue would say as there is a generalisation in my house that triathletes all look the same. Skinny and bald and generally wearing Oakley's. Well this guy wasn't wearing Oakley's but fitted the other criteria.

My blood sugar proved a little more difficult, it was below 4mmol and dropping. The gave me some juice but that never touched it. Then they brought out the glucose tablets. 5 of those, you need a lot of water when you eat 5, my blood sugar started on the up. The difficulty was that i had been on a sliding scale of insulin/glucose and my tolerance to insulin is not exactly text book.

The biggest impact to my diabetes is fitness. The fitter i am the less insulin i need. The scale was a text book guideline so probably a little on the high side for me.

Warming up now and with rising blood sugar they decided i could go back to the ward and more importantly have something to eat. I was now 2pm.

On the ward they were, again, great. A cup of tea, sandwiches, a salad and some orange juice appeared and was eaten double-quick. I was then told that i could leave later that afternoon. Great news.

I walked out of hospital just after 6pm with a bag full of dressings and pain killers. Got in the car downstairs and was home within 5 minutes.

Post Hospital
Post hospital recovery was a bit up and down. On the Wednesday i slept in but ventured out in the afternoon to Waitrose. In the car park we saw Mr Birch the surgeon that did my operation!

The plan was to go back to work on Thursday for the rest of the week. Thursday morning i got up, felt a bit foggy but otherwise OK. I got to work and felt distinctly odd. Foggy and hungover was the best description. I went to a couple of meetings but could not focus or keep my concentration. I called home and got picked up early. I never went in on Friday either. It was only Saturday that it started to clear and i felt normal.

I think this was down to the Codeine i was taking, apparently the effect is cumulative and so over two nights it built up sufficiently to make me foggy.

This was, as i said at the start, my third knee operation on the NHS. As a diabetic i am also at the hospital for checkups every 6 months. The care and attention i have always had has been nothing short of first class. 

People may knock it but from my experience the nurses are lovely and care. They do an incredibly difficult job with many constraints. I cannot fault them at all and nor would i.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cannot wait...

Been torturing myself tonight watching videos on YouTube of Killian
Jornet running up and down stunning mountains and trails....

Desperate to get into that type of running and pushing boundaries of
endurance and technique.

One day......

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red Onion, Chilli & Fennell Tarte Tatin

I got this recipe from Michel Roux' current tv programme. 

It was actually easy to make although took a little longer than I bargained. The ingredients were simple.....


Preparation method

  1. Roll the pastry out into a circle large enough to cover a small ovenproof frying pan or tatin dish of about 20cm/8in in diameter. Place the pastry in the fridge to rest until needed.

  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Peel the onions and slice into thick rounds. Remove the outer sections of the fennel and cut each bulb into six pieces, removing some of the woody core.

  3. Take the stalk off the chilli but leave it whole. Cut a slit down the length so the juices can escape and flavour the vegetables.

  4. Put all the vegetables into a roasting tin, with the onions laid flat on the bottom of the tin. Pour over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add the crushed coriander seeds, salt and pepper.

  5. Roast in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally but being careful to keep the onion rings in one piece.

  6. Directly in the frying pan or tatin dish, mix the sugar with three tablespoons of water. Quickly bring to the boil and cook, without stirring, until golden-brown.

  7. Arrange all the vegetables in a decorative pattern in the frying pan or tin and press down tight. Sprinkle with the thyme and parmesan.

  8. Cover with the puff pastry and tuck in at the edges between the vegetables and the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with a fork and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden-brown and fully cooked. Leave to cool for at least five minutes before turning upside down onto a serving dish.

  9. Slice and serve with a side salad.

When it came out of the oven it looked like this.

Turn it over and voila. Caramelised lushness!

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